Brenda is busy running errands when her sister tells her that she wants to see her at their mother’s house urgently. Brenda’s wedding to her fiancé Geoffrey is only a week away, and Brenda is busy ensuring that all is well. Right now she is at the bakery where the wedding cake will be made, and after that she wanted to go to the tailor to see if her bridesmaid’s dresses are ready. She had agreed with the tailor that the dresses will be ready today so that the girls can fit them. That way, if there are any issues with any of the dresses there will be enough time to make adjustments. Geoffrey is making transport arrangements. They do not have enough vehicles for the wedding convoy, but Geoffrey is working hard at that. Brenda and Geoffrey had agreed to meet for dinner later tonight and compare notes.
Brenda’s mother lives about fifty kilometers away. If she heads there right now, she can forget her meeting with the tailors. Brenda always treats her sister with caution-the same way she treats her mother. The way she sees it, the two women are manipulative, and hardly ever do something without expecting something in return. Brenda prefers her grandmother Agnetta, who she sees as more emotionally stable. Brenda grew up in her grandmother’s house, and it was Agnetta who paid her school fees up to university level. Whenever she goes to the village, she still prefers to stay at her grandmother’s house over her mothers.
She briefly considers visiting the tailor and then heading home but she discards the plan. She doesn’t want to break her plans but there is something in her sister’s tone that tells her that something serious may have happened. She decides to go immediately and then visit the tailor tomorrow.
Agnetta, who is now seventy-one, brought up her six children in a chaotic home, the chaos brought about by her late husband Leonard. Leonard was a teacher, and reportedly a good one, but at home he was a brutal husband and father. He used to beat his wife and children like drums, especially when he was drunk; which was often. He used to drink heavily and, unsurprisingly, he was a philanderer.
But Agnetta took it in her stride and endured for the sake of her children. She worked hard on the family farm to ensure that that the family was well catered for. On the farm she had coffee, two dairy cows, chicken and various food crops such as maize, beans, bananas, sweet potatoes, arrowroots and cassavas. She ensured that her family was well fed, and she ensured that all her children were educated. She used earnings from their coffee farm, milk and eggs to pay school fees, buy clothes and basically ensure that the home was running smoothly. Leonard made several attempt to take the milk and eggs money from her, but she always resisted. That is one of the reasons why she was always beaten. There was a time when Leonard went and took the coffee earnings and spent it all on women and alcohol. Agnetta went to the coffee factory and the sacco and pleaded with them not to allow him to do that again. She somehow got him to sign a letter, while he was druk, authorizing the sacco to remit his earnings directly to the schools where his children were schooling. Agnetta submitted this letter to the Sacco and another copy to the factory, and the next time Leonard tried to withdraw the money, he was informed that he couldn’t. He tried to rescind the letter but the directors took him in circles until he gave up. But all this while he was beating Agnetta and the children to a pulp. That is how all the six children got educated up to tertiary level.
Four of her children, three sons and a daughter, are okay. They are now in their middle age, with stable careers and families of their own. Two of the sons, Philip and Johnson, are secondary school teachers while the third, Anthony, is a Presbyterian Church minister. The daughter, Rose, is a secondary school bursar. The two youngest children, however, have very chaotic lives, and Agnetta often wonders if she was a bad mother. Michael and Florence are irresponsible drunkards.
Michael dropped out of school in class seven. Agnetta was furious. She was doing everything to ensure that her children were getting the best of life but Michael wouldn’t have been bothered. He started hanging out with matatu touts at the local market center and started playing truant. The ten or twenty shillings he was getting from matatu drivers seemed to be more important to him than getting education. He started taking alcohol, chewing miraa and smoking. Eventually Leonard got him circumcised and took him to a polytechnic. That surprised Agnetta because Leonard had never before taken any interest in his children. Michael somehow completed a plumbing course but till today, at the age of forty five, he prefers to hang around matatu stages chewing miraa and begging for coins from drivers. He doesn’t have a wife, but he is a deadbeat father of many.
Agnetta’s last born, Florence, started becoming a headache in class six. Agnetta was always getting summoned to school over her behavior. If she was not flirting with male teachers, she was beating up other girls or insulting female teachers. The first miracle is that she was not expelled from the girl’s boarding school in the following three years, and she sat her KCPE in the same institution. The second miracle is that she managed to get to a respected provincial secondary school even though in the last three years of her primary school education she spent more time at home suspended than she did at school.
But her stay St. Mary’s Girls Igoji was short-lived because she fell pregnant in form two. By the time she got pregnant she was on the verge of getting expelled because of disciplinary issues. She stayed at home for a year and nursed her baby. One year and three months later Angetta enrolled her at a nearby district secondary school. St Mary’s had refused to take her back. Agnetta took charge of the baby as though it were her own child.
That child is Brenda.
Florence made it to the university. She fell pregnant again while at the university and brought the child to her mother. That child is called Alice. Florence managed to complete her studies and graduated with a Bachelor’s degree in Education. Now she teaches at the same secondary school where she completed her studies. She lived with her mother and her two children until Agnetta got fed up and kicked her out. Florence drinks heavily, smokes like a chimney and is utterly promiscuous. This was too much for Agnetta, a conservative Methodist Christian.
Agnetta’s husband Leonard had died a year after Brenda was born, leaving Agnetta in charge of the twenty-acre farm. He had shown his sons where to build their houses but otherwise the farm remained his. After Florence completed her studies, Agnetta called a family meeting and told her children that she wanted to subdivide the land amongst them, and that she wanted all of them to get an equal share. Michael almost brought a meeting to halt, saying he did not understand why his sisters were inheriting their father’s land, but his brothers silenced him.
Philip, the first born, spearheaded the succession process. He found a lawyer and led his siblings Johnson, Philip and Rose into contributing for the legal fees. Michael and Florence did not contribute a dime, but they got three acres at the end of the process, just like the others. Agnetta retained two acres.
When Agnetta kicked Florence out of her house, she did not include the children. But Alice chose to follow her mother, knowing that she would get more freedom if she lived with her irresponsible mother. Brenda, however, decided to stick to her grandmother. Florence and Alice rented a house. Within a year, however, she sold an acre of her three acres and built her house for herself. It was a relief when the house was completed because Agnetta had feared that she would drink the money with her string of boyfriends.
Unsurprisingly, Alice picked up most of her mother’s habits. She drinks and smokes heavily and keeps a string of simultaneous boyfriends. She has a four year old son called Albert. Unlike her mother, Alice did not complete her undergraduate studies. She was a first year Political Science student when she became pregnant. She took the baby to her mother, and Florence attempted to take it to Agnetta. But Agnetta refused to take up the responsibility and was supported on this by the rest of the family, especially Brenda. So Alice dropped out of school to take care of her son, because Florence refused to hire a nanny for her.
Brenda, on the other hand, takes her life very seriously. After primary school she got admitted to her mother’s first school, St. Mary’s Girls High School, Igoji. She left the school with an A- and was admitted to Moi University’s School of Law. After that she went to the Kenya School of Law. She was admitted to Bar last year. Agnetta paid her school fees from her coffee earnings from the two acres she retained, although every now and then Rose, Philip, Johnson and Anthony would chip in. They are all very proud of the girl.
Brenda got a job in the office of the County Attorney and that is where she works to date. She is getting married and that fact is filling Agnetta with both joy and sadness: joy because the little girl who became her last born is finally going to get a family of her own, and sadness because she is not sure how often she will be seeing her after she gets married.
Days like these are the ones that make Brenda wish she had a car. She had to wait for almost an hour before the matatu filled up at the stage. And now she has to hurry and find a motorcycle to her mother’s house because it looks like it is about to rain. She finds the motorcycle soon enough and it drops her off at her grandmother’s house. She is coming to see her sister at their mother’s house, but she will have to pass by home first…and home to her is her grandmother’s house.
She greets her grandmother warmly and hands her the shopping she hastily did at the supermarket. She tries to come and see the old lady at least twice a month, and she usually spends the weekend here. She has already made it clear to the family that her grandmother’s house is where the groom’s people will pick her next Saturday. This is also where the traditional wedding ceremony was held. Florence maybe her mother, but her house has never been “home” to Brenda.
“Have you seen Alice?” Brenda asks her grandmother after they have exchanged greetings.
“No, but I saw your fiancé going to your mother’s house. Is there a problem?”
“I don’t know grandma. Alice just called me and told me she wants to see me urgently at their house. Let me go and see what this is all about.”
Brenda uses a path that cuts across the farm and finds herself at her mother’s house within minutes. On the way, she passed by her uncle Philip’s house, and his wife Dorothy invited her for a cup of tea. She declined, but she promised to go after talking to her sister. She finds Alice seated on the porch, reading something from her phone.
Alice hugs her sister while smiling broadly, and Brenda’s antenna go up. Alice has always made it plain that she doesn’t like her sister, so this warmth is suspect.
“It is so good to see you siz,” Alice says brightly. “Although the circumstances are not the best.”
“Why? What happened? And where is Geoffrey? Grandma told me that she saw him coming this way.”
“He is inside. He is actually they reason I called. I am so sorry siz.”
Brenda’s heart misses a beat. What happened to Geoffrey? Did he fall ill? Then why hasn’t he been taken to hospital? Or did he collapse and die the way she has heard some people do? And what was he doing here in the first place? He hadn’t mentioned visiting Florence as part of his plans.
“Is Geoffrey okay?” she asks as Alice leads her into the house.
“Oh, he is fine. He has just had too much fun.”
Alice opens the door of their mother’s bedroom without knocking, and Brenda gasps loudly. There, on her mother’s bed, is her fiancé Geoffrey, the same man she is supposed to marry on Saturday. That is not the problem; the problem is that he is naked. That is not the major problem though. The major problem is that Florence, Brenda’s mother, is also on that bed, also naked. Mother and prospective son-in-law are in each other’s arms, fast asleep. They are also dead drunk. Brenda has never seen Geoffrey drunk; she has always known his as a devout Christian.
The scene is too much for her to bear. She flees the house and goes back to her grandmother’s house, crying all the way.
(To be continued on Saturday)
Image by 1388843 from Pixabay: https://pixabay.com/photos/people-emotion-dramatic-female-1492052/
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